Elements of Civil Government eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 218 pages of information about Elements of Civil Government.

The privileged class are usually called nobles.  They are above the common people in rank and bear titles of honor.  These titles are mostly inherited, but are sometimes conferred upon persons by the sovereign.

An aristocracy never exists by itself; it is always combined with some other form of government, usually with a constitutional monarchy.  The government of England is partly aristocratic; the House of Lords, one of the bodies of Parliament, being composed of nobles.

DEMOCRACY.—­A democracy is a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”  It is a government by many, instead of by one or by a few.  Hereditary titles are inconsistent with democratic government, and therefore never exist in a democracy.

A pure democracy is a government conducted by the people in person.  It is practicable only in a political community so small that all the people may assemble at the seat of government.  The New England “town meeting” is almost the only example of a pure democracy in the world at the present time; certainly the only example in the United States.

A republic, or representative democracy, is a government conducted by representatives elected by the people.

The United States, Mexico, France, Switzerland, and all South American nations are republics, and the republican principle of government is growing in popularity throughout the civilized world.

No form of government is equally good for all peoples.  A certain form may be good for one country and bad for another country.  A republic, which is the best government for a well-educated and virtuous people, is the worst for an ignorant and depraved people.

The excellence of a republican government depends upon the knowledge and virtue of its citizens.  The people are the rulers, and, if they are wise and virtuous, they will rule well; if they are ignorant and depraved, they will rule ill.  Therefore the hope of a republic like ours is, that its people will continue to grow wiser and better.

[1]Fiske’s Civil Government of the United States.


1.  Why is military government more severe than civil government?

2.  Could society exist without law?  Why?

3.  Why is a republic a bad form of government for an ignorant people?

4.  Are the people of the United States growing wiser and better?

5.  Is this State improving in civilization?



The object of government is to protect the people, and to render justice to them. Justice is the security of rights.  A right is a well-founded claim; that is, a just claim of one person upon other persons.

Rights are the most important things that a person can possess, because his happiness depends upon them.  They are real things, for whose protection governments are instituted.  The kind and extent of the rights recognized and protected in any country determine the form of its government.  As a rule, there is more freedom among citizens of a republic than among those of other governments, because a republic guarantees more rights.

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Elements of Civil Government from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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